Nebraska highways ranked 12th ahead of a less-traveled holiday season

Nebraska highways ranked 12th ahead of a less-traveled holiday season

As health officials advise to avoid large family gatherings this Thanksgiving, and gas prices remain on the lower side, many Americans might take to the highways for a road trip with the people in their COVID bubble.

Though AAA travel projections show a major reduction in travel plans from last Thanksgiving, particularly among air passengers, more than 40 million Americans are still expected to get in the car and go somewhere, which will provide ample opportunity for drivers to give their reviews of road conditions in their states and those they drive through.

For the last 25 years, the Reason Foundation has published a review of state highway systems based on their condition and cost-effectiveness. In this year’s edition, Nebraska ranks 12th overall, but faces stiff competition from several neighboring states. Here’s the regional ranking along with the nationwide map.

Missouri: 2nd
Kansas: 3rd
South Dakota: 11th
Nebraska: 12th
Iowa: 20th
Wyoming: 36th
Colorado: 38th

Reason’s ranking does not merely reward states for spending a lot of money on roads and bridges. Rather, it accounts for factors including the effective use of transportation dollars based on the amount of highway miles it must maintain, the number of vehicle miles driven on a state’s highways, and the administrative costs associated with highway and bridge maintenance. Other ranking factors include urban congestion, the conditions of rural and urban interstates, arterial road pavement quality, highway fatalities, and the percentage of bridges listed by the federal government as structurally deficient.

As one might expect, Nebraska is ranked very well for low urban congestion. Our drivers spend a fraction of the time in traffic as their urban counterparts in Colorado and Missouri. Among our immediate neighbors, only Iowa ranked better.

Most states in our region also ranked on the lower side for urban traffic fatalities, but Nebraska’s urban highways did not rank highly in every area. Nebraska’s urban interstate pavement condition was ranked 31st, which is roughly average. Its urban arterial roads, however, were ranked 47th, with 26% listed as being in poor condition. This is more than twice the national average.

Overall, a much smaller percentage of rural arterial roads (1.46%) are considered to be in poor condition, but Nebraska still performed below most other states, ranking 32nd. Kansas ranked 4th, with only 0.27% in poor condition. Nebraska’s rural interstate pavement is considered better than the national average, however, ranking 16th.

The region mostly trended higher for rural highway fatalities, with Iowa having the best ranking at 15th and Nebraska coming in at 22nd.  Finally, Nebraska’s percentage of structurally deficient bridges is its second worst ranking, at 8.85%. Kansas (5.17%) and Colorado (5.38%) rank ahead of Nebraska, while Missouri has a similar backlog of bridges (8.63%).

Overall, Reason’s rankings show Nebraska’s highway system does a notably good job on cost-effectiveness. Despite the difficulties the state’s infrastructure has faced in recent years, Nebraska’s highway system has been raised three places since the last edition of the report. Like many rankings, not each of these factors is weighted equally, and when comparing Nebraska to its neighbors, the authors suggest Nebraska could continue to rise by focusing on improving the condition of its urban arterial roads.

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